116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — After grinding through an early-season gauntlet, it’s safe to say the Lightning finally had some fun.
Iowa City Liberty began its season 0-5. Its opponents during the opening stretch — 5A No. 5 Iowa City High, 5A No. 9 Linn-Mar, 2019 3A state champion Western Dubuque (the Bobcats also received four votes in The Gazette’s most recent 4A poll), 4A No. 9 Clear Creek Amana and 4A No. 1 North Scott — entered play this week with a combined 22-3 record.
But Friday night, on Homecoming, Liberty (1-5) unleashed some built-up frustration and tallied its first “W” of the season in a 56-0 rout of Mount Pleasant (1-5) in Class 4A District 3 action.
The win was James Harris’ first as Liberty head coach.
“It’s a long time coming, I feel like,” Harris said. “We’re a good football team, and unfortunately we’ve come up short in the games we’ve played against some really good teams. I’m excited for the kids, I’m excited for the school, I’m excited for the culture we’re trying to build here.”
The Lighting dominated the first half, tallying 118 rushing yards, 96 passing yards, seven first downs and six touchdowns. Liberty’s defense held Mount Pleasant to just 31 yards of total offense in the first and second quarters.
Liberty’s first score of the game came on a 24-yard pass from junior quarterback Tye Hughes to Luke Meyers.
Wyatt Williams then recovered a Mount Pleasant fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned it to the Panthers’ 22. On the next play, Darius Willis-Newell scampered in for his first touchdown.
With 2:58 left in the first, Hughes found Amari Thigpen open in the corner of the end zone for a 4-yard score.
Early in the second, Hughes found Williams for a 9-yard score, his third passing TD of the first half. Hughes completed 8 of 10 passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns.
Willis-Newell and Hughes each added rushing touchdowns before halftime as the Lightning took a 42-0 lead into the locker room. Liberty rested most of its starters in the second half.
The Lightning were extremely efficient on offense, with no scoring drive taking longer than 3:31. Liberty’s six first-half scores took 1:05, :09, 3:31, 1:36, :03 and 1:05, and the Lightning did not punt in the first half.
“We overcame a lot of adversity in the last five weeks,” Hughes said. “I just think it motivated us to keep working harder each week so we could come out and get this win tonight.”
Garret Gregiore intercepted a Carson Coleman pass early in the fourth quarter and returned it 90 yards to the house, and Trey Gregiore added a 9-yard score late in the fourth to cap the scoring at 56-0.
Remaining on Liberty’s schedule are Fort Madison, Burlington and Clinton.
“We control our own destiny,” said Harris. “If we win out, we have the opportunity to make the playoffs and our kids understand that.”